Awesome Games Done Quick: A Community Criticism
Edit: All information and observations in this post pertain to AGDQ 2013.
Awesome Games Done Quick is a week long gaming marathon done on speedrunslive.com. Its purpose, aside from speed running games for a week, is to raise money for cancer research. Before I get into this post, I’d like to thank everyone participating in AGDQ for putting their time toward such a worthy cause. You people are awesome.
AGDQ attracts a lot of attention on speedrunslive.com, with an audience usually ranging from 20,000-30,000 people. Watching AGDQ (as well as many other streams on speedrunslive.com) basically consists of viewing the game being played, and viewing the person/people playing the game as well as their live audience. There is also a chatroom so that the internet audience can talk to each other and to the speedrunner (though the runners in AGDQ don’t really pay attention to the chat as far as I can tell). The chat can range from good to pretty awful depending on who is participating. It can be a place of fun video game discussion and appreciation where the speedrunner is cheered on, or a breeding ground for trolls and negativity.
I was watching one of my favourite games today, Final Fantasy IX on AGDQ. Much of the commentary had nothing to do with the game though (except when it was about which Final Fantasy game is best/worst, which is a whole other can of worms that I won’t bother getting into in this post). The commentary was about a girl sitting in the audience, knitting while she watched the speedrun. Let me give you a few examples of what was said about this girl. These are not all exact quotes, as I did not save the messages from the chat as they happened. I did write these down not too long after I was done watching though, so they were pretty fresh in my memory:
“grill confirmed on the couch” (girls are often referred to as “grills,” obviously because they sound similar).
“can someone throw out knitting girl?”
“knitting girl is legit hot.”
“knitting girl looks like a *** badger.”
“those are some big *** tits on knitting girl.”
“is that a girl on the couch?”
“who’s the girl?”
“is that a girl in the audience?”
“sure are using the term “girl” loosely these days.”
This is only a small sample of the things that were said about this girl, and it was completely acceptable in the chat to speak about her this way. No one said anything about it, it wasn’t weird, it’s even “cool” to talk about girls this way. Putting aside the blatantly offensive comments about her for a moment, this is also a comment on the fixation the chat had on her. She couldn’t just be another person sitting on the couch, watching someone play FFIX, she is a GIRL watching FFIX, so we must know everything about her, we must decide whether she is attractive or not, and if she’s not then what’s the point of her being here?
I tried to protest this behaviour by communicating that everyone’s fixation on her was very creepy, and asked why it was so important that they know what genitalia the audience members had, but it was met with general apathy and further comments about “knitting girl,” as she was named by the chat. I’m not proud of myself though, as I did not protest nearly as much as I could have. But what would it have done really? If I protest too much, then the chat would figure out I’m a girl (I have a fairly gender neutral name on speedrunslive) and now I’m the “crazy feminist girl” whose opinion is meaningless.
Men, I am calling you out. Even if you say things such as the examples I listed above, I know you don’t all think like that, but many of you talk like that to fit in with “the guys.” I’ve learned by masquerading as a male on speedrunslive.com that men experience a lot of pressure in informal social situations with other groups of men, and it is not talked about enough. You’re expected to be tough, crude, sarcastic, loud, and any mention of women is purely sexual. You don’t have to act that way, you really don’t. Be an example. When someone speaks inappropriately about women, don’t play along, tell them it’s uncool. We all deeply care about being accepted by our peers, and it hurts when we’re not. I understand, women experience the same pressure. So use that to your advantage. Stop communicating that it is cool to look at women like they’re fun sexy toys, and instead tell them it’s not acceptable. There are young boys in those chats who are internalizing that it’s okay to talk and think about women this way, and young girls learning that it’s okay for people to talk about them this way. It is NOT. This is a message to all the guys who already know it’s not right to behave this way. Use your position as an authority figure among your male friends and make them feel like it is uncool to talk that way. We need to change our definition of what cool is, because as it is now it’s incredibly offensive to women.
Gaming community, I’m calling you out specifically. This is one of the most alienating communities toward women, so much so that I often feel I can’t admit I’m a female in gaming chats and forums. And don’t you dare retort with “girls on the internet just want attention,” or “why does it matter? just play the game,” OR “tits or GTFO” (hilariously this blog is filled with my boobs…). It matters that I am constantly aware of how I speak, it matters that I’m afraid if you know I’m a girl you’ll speak to me differently, it matters that you might think I’m worse at gaming than you because I’m female, and it matters that I choose not to use a head set just because I have a female voice. These are problems, and only just a few of them. I am so disappointed in so much of the gaming community. I want to believe that I’m part of an accepting community that cares for people, one where everyone can have fun regardless of gender, race, etc.
Then I remember that there are actually a lot of great people within the gaming community. Remember the premise of AGDQ? Raising money in an attempt to eradicate cancer? That’s really noble, and I’m so proud of everyone who put it together and participated. It reminds me that I’m not part of an awful, trolly, offensive community, and there are many great people as well. I know a fair number of members of the competitive Super Smash Brothers Melee community, and so many of them are fantastic men who I am proud to call friends. The good people are just too quiet. Please, speak up. Make gaming something that women don’t have to think twice about participating in. I want to be part of the gaming community and not have to think twice about whether or not I’m allowed to be female while I do so.
EDIT: I’d like to thank the Moderators for doing a fantastic job in the chat. You were deleting unacceptable comments at lightning speed when I tuned in during Ocarina of Time.